Lexington, KY — It is no secret that the lack of training in many police departments leads to police officers firing their weapons when they should not be doing so. It is also no secret that these shots will often end up in the bodies of children and innocent individuals as well. Indeed, hundreds of people are shot and left permanently disabled or even killed every year by improperly trained police officers. As the following story illustrates, in some instances, this lack of training is so overt that even cops aren't safe from it. A Kentucky sheriff's deputy learned about this lack of training the hard way and is now left paralyzed as a result of it.
If you read the headlines last September, you would have learned that Scott County deputy Jamie Morales, a two-year veteran of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, was critically injured after being shot during the apprehension of a bank robber, 57-year-old Edward Reynolds of Florida.
"The Georgetown/Scott County Special Response Team initiated contact with Reynolds and shots were fired," state police said at the time. Morales had been shot in the back, severely injuring the deputy.
However, the police report conveniently omitted the fact that the the bullet lodged in Morales' back was not from the bank robber—it was from Georgetown police officer Joseph Enricco, according to a recent lawsuit. Morales is now tragically paralyzed and, according to his lawsuit, it is due to the fact that the cop who shot him was improperly trained.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Morales alleges the Georgetown Police Department did not properly train members of a special response team who were called to help U.S. Deputy Marshal Roger Daniel arrest Reynolds that fateful night.
According to the lawsuit, Enricco was dispatched to the field despite having only completed basic response team training one month prior to shooting Morales. He had not been to vehicle assault training or had any serious experience before he shot the deputy in the back.
“Officer Enricco lacked the experience, training or knowledge to serve on the call-out to apprehend Reynolds,” the lawsuit says. Georgetown Police Chief Mike Bosse and Lt. James Wagoner, who oversaw the serious response team, should not have allowed Enricco on the call, the lawsuit said, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
“It’s very compelling what a poor job the Georgetown Police Department did in training and commanding the SRT team,” said Thomas Miller, one of Morales’ attorneys.
According to the lawsuit, while the deputies were attempting to apprehend Reynolds who was in his vehicle at the time, Enricco was behind them and not in a position to fire his weapon—but he did anyway.
“Enricco was positioned to the rear-right of Morales and was not in a position to discharge his firearm because Morales was between him and Reynolds,” the lawsuit says.
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Reynolds was in his vehicle and attempting to load a gun when the officers approached. After refusing to stop loading the gun, several deputies opened fire. Reynolds, who never fired a single round, was killed and Morales was shot in the back.
“Minimal training had been received in basic tactics with no coordinated vehicle take down training being provided to any of the three officers,” retired Paris Police Chief Kevin Sutton, who was also a commander of the Lexington Police Department’s special response team, said in an affidavit attached to the lawsuit . “The location of all of the officers as they approached the vehicle was inappropriate.”
Enricco did not have the appropriate training to be on the call, Sutton said, according to the Herald Leader.
“Officer Enricco’s lack of training led him to discharge his weapon, injuring Deputy Morales,” Sutton wrote in his 26-page report.
It would take nearly six months for police to finally acknowledge that Morales was shot by a fellow cop. In fact, it wasn't until after a grand jury failed to return an indictment in his shooting that police admitted Morales was shot by a cop and not Reynolds.
Likely due to the fact that he was shot by a cop, Morales has received no financial help after being paralyzed.
"Jamie has never received one dollar from Georgetown or any other public entity," said Tom W. Miller, one of Morales' attorneys. "In fact, Georgetown refused to make any offer to settle Jamie's claim when given the opportunity to do so, forcing us to file suit."
Naturally, after the lawsuit was filed, the city went on the defensive.
Scott Miller, the attorney representing the city, said in the statement that “we certainly empathize with Deputy Jaime Morales and his family and are disappointed that a lawsuit has been filed. However, now that the lawsuit is pending, we will meet our responsibility of vigorously defending our clients and officers in their efforts in apprehending a very dangerous individual.”
Last week, the Scott County Sheriff's Office posted a photo of Morales to their Facebook page to promote Spinal Cord Injury Awareness. Like the original police reports, they also failed to mention that it was a police bullet that injured Morales' spinal cord.